Welcome to Backcountry Explorers
Backcountry Explorers Old Timer Tales
Copyright © 2015 Laymon International LLC 21143 Hawthorne Blvd. #418 Torrance, Ca 90503
During the winter months of January, February, and March, one of the unique methods used by the stage lines in the Sierras was to place snowshoes on their horses. This practice started in 1865 as a way for the stage to travel the deep winter snows that covered the early California trails from Marysville to Downieville without the need to wait for spring. These early horse snowshoes were invented by a Sam Wollever Who is buried at Cherokee Flat in Butte County.
As described in a New York Times article dated January 12th, 1874, the snowshoes were made of malleable iron squares, nine by nine inches with rubber riveted to the bottom of the plate to prevent snow build up. On the other side of the plate a commonly sized horseshoe with a sharp heel and toe with the corks set through holes in the center of the plate with rivets or screws. The snowshoe is fastened to the horse by a clasp with swivel screw holding the riveted horseshoe tightly under the hoof of the horse. The shoes were custom fit for each sized hoof and a team of four horses would take a man two hours to put the shoes on. Earlier shoes were also made of square wooden plates as shown in the middle photo above but were later abandoned due to the snow build up on the wood.
It was said that when the plates were first attached some horses cut themselves but soon learned to spread their feet so as not to interfere. Some would become good snow horses at once while others were incapable of learning how to navigate with the plates. The very first photo above is a picture of a snow-shoe team in action pulling a sled out of Forest City, Ca in the winter with a hotel in the background.
According to the San Fransisco Call of February 1, 1906, Horses on snowshoes were also used to haul mail in and out of Bodie, Ca. Snowshoes were used at least up to 1937 by the last teamster, Pike Solara, serving the snow Tent to Graniteville run in Nevada County, California